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A Stranger in the Promised Land Chapter VI(part4)  

2009-07-17 18:52:41|  分类: HP转载 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Harry nodded and debated whether to rest a hand on her shoulder, but thought better of it.

"But how can you be sure it’s me," asked Katie. "I know I was born on the last day of November, but the rest of it means nothing. It could be anyone."

"Unfortunately no," said Harry, shaking his head. "Your parents would have escaped Vol...Grindelwald three times before you were born. If you need further proof, look to the next line: 'the Dark Lord shall mark her as his equal'. Mark her, Katie?"

"My scar," said Katie solemnly staring Harry in the eye.

Harry watched as she gingerly raised a hand to her forehead and traced the outline of her scar. He noticed how her eyes widened with terror, and hated that he had been the one to lay that burden on her even as he knew that she needed to understand. He wished there had been another way.

"Correct," said Riddle, more kindly than Harry thought possible for him. "Mr. Potter is once again right. There is, unfortunately, no doubt that it is you."

"But the next bit," stammered Katie, "One must die at the hands of the other..."

Neither Harry nor Riddle could think of anything to say. Even Dumbledore had remained silent at this point as the gravity of what was to come hit home for the Chosen One.

"I'm going to die," said Katie finally, staring blankly into Harry’s face.

"No," said Harry firmly. "That's not going to happen." For some inexplicable reason the thought of her dying after everything she’d been through was incomprehensible and terrifying. He had survived his confrontation with Voldemort in the Unholy Land, and she could do the same here. Besides, he was determined to give Katie a bit of a boost after everything she had been through tonight.

"What hope do I have?" asked Katie looking almost pleadingly up at Harry.

"Two things," replied Harry confidently. "One, you have me now, which might level the playing field. Secondly, you must remember the next line. You have 'power the Dark Lord knows not'."

"Like what?" asked Katie doubtfully, clearly not believing him.

"I don't understand it either," admitted Harry. "It's the same power that took you to rescue Sirius tonight, that drove the Dark Lord from your mind this evening. It flows in your veins, thicker than blood. It's love, Katie. Your heart saved you tonight. Voldemort cannot bear to feel love... as in literally cannot withstand it without tremendous pain. That’s why he could not bear to be inside your head tonight and why your mother's sacrifice really stumped him."

As he looked over at Katie she was staring at him, a thoroughly confused look on her face, as if he had been speaking double-dutch...which on reflection he probably was. Harry glanced over at Riddle and to his surprise found the Headmaster looking as if he had seen a ghost. The man was white as a sheet, his body rigid and a terrified expression etched into his pale features. It was the first time Harry had seen him appear vulnerable or scared since he had known him.

"What?"

"Who's Voldemort?" asked Katie.

Harry's stomach clenched tight in his chest and a chill ran down his spine.Bollocks! He had mentioned Voldemort, a name that didn't even exist here. Harry's felt a shiver run all over his body as he realised he had messed up, and now he was on the back foot for this explanation. There was no use hiding anymore ? it was time for the truth to come out.

Harry took a deep breath.

"To understand him, you must first understand me," said Harry, choosing his words carefully. He really wished he had rehearsed this a little more. "I believe the Headmaster has a vague understanding of where I come from."

Riddle leaned forwards, his eyes locked on Harry, a look of victory in his eyes though he still seemed very pale.

"I believe," he said carefully, pausing for effect, "that you are a parallel version of the Harry Potter we know."

Harry paused for a minute. He looked from Riddle, who was clearly waiting for confirmation, to Katie who looked slightly confused, and then back.

"How long have you known?" asked Harry, his curiosity getting the better of him. Perhaps it was his pride, but he really wanted to know where he had slipped up and what had given him away.

"Everything fell into place tonight," replied the Headmaster. "I have known for some time that your DNA was different. In addition, your physique and behaviour is radically different from the Harry we knew. He wasn’t prone to carry around an arsenal of weapons as you were when you first came here, either. Other things have been troubling as well. Your visit to St. Mungo’s last week was most perplexing, and seemingly impossible."

"I had a feeling you knew that was me," said Harry evasively. "Your offer of tea was not very subtle."

"Neither were you with your questions," replied Riddle, his tone not aggressive but firm, nevertheless. "Anyhow, I knew about your DNA and your trip, but I didn't understand everything until tonight when I found out about the theory of multiple universes and the concept of moving between them, stepping sideways in time. There were references to Arithmancy, something you showed an interest in, and also of differences in your blood which Poppy Pomfrey could not explain despite many sleepless nights."

"I knew she was up to something," said Harry more to himself. It had been the way she looked at him. He wondered how much longer he could have remained hidden before she discovered where he came from. Still, it was a moot point now.

"The wonders of modern science," Harry continued absently. He shook himself out of his daze. "Anyhow, yes, you are fundamentally correct." He turned to Katie, feeling the need to explain this to her more than Riddle. "Imagine that everything you ever knew was a dream. Imagine you woke up tomorrow to find that everything you remember had never happened, you had grown up with your parents, and everything was completely different. That is essentially what happened to me. There are parallel worlds side-by-side, some slightly different, but others are so different it feels like the world has literally been turned upside down. I accidentally jumped into one."

"You what?" she asked, raising eyebrows. Her tone was sceptical and she looked much as McGonagall had when Seamus had explained how his owl had eaten his homework.

"One day I was in my world," replied Harry, "and the next I woke up to find myself in a place that was completely different, where history had happened differently and I was not who I used to be. It was as if my whole life had just been a dream, and I was the only one who remembered it."

"So you're not really our Harry?" Katie asked looking thoughtful, if somewhat sceptical.

"No, I’m not," admitted Harry shaking his head. "I'm just another version of him."

Katie seemed to be searching him for any sign of a lie as her eyes swept over his face. She looked as if she was expecting him to say April Fool or something similar as she gazed from Harry to Riddle and back again.

"You're serious, aren't you?" she said after a pause. "You really are...or rather you really think you are from another world."

"How do you explain how I know everything?" asked Harry, trying not to sound patronising. "How did I know all this long before it happened?"

"So you claim you are from the future as well?" scoffed Katie, shaking her head. "Quick Doc, we need to go back to nineteen fifty-five! Let's get my broom up to eighty-eight miles per hour. Oh, please, this is bollocks!"

"No," replied Harry, struggling not to be sarcastic in return. "I am not from the future, just a place where things happened earlier."

"Which amounts to the same thing," protested Katie. "Look Harry, I’ve had a long day and I can't take any more BS. Either tell me the truth, or I'm going to bed."

"I am," argued Harry. "Do I need to take Veritaserum? ...Because I will if it helps me prove to you that I’m not lying." He clenched his fist and exposed the faint scars there, remnants of Umbridge’s torture. "See this? ‘I must not tell lies’. Ironic I got this from telling the truth." He gently took Katie's hand in his and placed it next to his own in order to compare the scars. "Just another thing we seem to have in common."

Katie sat still, staring at him for a few seconds. She didn't withdraw her hand or make any movement for what seemed like ages before speaking again.

"Say I believe you," said Katie slowly, "which I don't, but say I did. What did happen to my friend, Harry?"

"I'm..." Harry began but that was as far as he got.

"Not you," she cut him off. "The realHarry, the true Harry. The one I knew, my friend."

Harry paused. He hadn't really thought about it in all honesty. In fact, he hadn't really cared. He had seen the opportunity since Harry had died and had just filled it with no thought for the other him. To Harry, who had never met his counterpart, the other Harry was just a piece of history to whom he was no more related to than Napoleon Bonaparte. He had never stopped to realise that the other Harry was a person with feelings and friends too. The other Harry’s life had been senselessly snuffed out along with his parents, and he hadn't even cared. He had dressed from Harry's trunk and walked around in the dead man's clothes with no respect for the person who had once owned them.

Suddenly Harry felt rather guilty.

"He's dead," answered Harry trying not to sound insensitive as he looked Katie in the eye. However, he didn’t flinch either. After all, he hadn’t been responsible for killing the Potters in this world. "He died in the fire in St. Mungo’s. This wasn't a great conspiracy or anything, taking over his life. When I arrived everyone told me he was dead and assumed I was him. I never corrected them because it served my purpose."

"You took his name, his belongings, his identity," said Katie. Her tone was not aggressive but more pensive, as if, like Harry, she was trying to work out if it was morally wrong.

"I did," conceded Harry. "It seemed simpler than telling the world I was an alien. Also, I should point out that I did not end up here intentionally. I wandered back to Hogwarts thinking it was my home, the one where I truly belong, and then I found out that something had gone horribly wrong. I was in shock and when everyone naturally assumed I was your Harry I went with it until I could figure out what to do next. It was not my intent to harm anyone, just give myself a place to stay until I figured out how to get home. I’ve not been trying to infiltrate Hogwarts or spy on you or anything."

There was a long pause as Katie weighed up the story in her mind. She glanced over at Riddle who still looked pale, but he gave her a small nod confirming his story.

"Very well," said Katie. "But, you still haven't answered the question."

Harry looked at her, puzzled.

"You may be from another world," she admitted. "On any other night I would never believe it, but tonight I've given up on the impossible. Let's say I believe you and you are from another world. That is what you are, it doesn't tell us who you are. For all we know, on your planet you could be a Death Eater, a monster, a killer, a mass murderer ? judging from what I saw tonight, you seem capable of it. Who are you really, Harry?"

Harry thought about that for a moment before he answered. It was time to come clean. "Monster? Maybe. Killer? Unfortunately. Death Eater? No." He took a deep breath and focused exclusively on Katie.

"What am I in my world? In truth, Katie, I am something far more terrifying than a Death Eater."

Harry raised his wand slowly and swept it lightly across his forehead, removing the makeup that had kept his identity hidden for weeks. Katie's eyes grew wide as they homed in on the scar that had appeared on his forehead. Her jaw dropped and she sat gaping like a fish.

"I'm you," said Harry simply.

Riddle and Katie sat in stunned silence, looking like they had been slapped. The gravity of what he had said hit them like a tsunami. Katie opened her mouth to speak and then closed it again. Riddle's eyebrows had shot up towards his hairline and his jaw was almost on the desk.

Harry moved closer to her and knelt down. "You asked how I knew what you were feeling," he continued looking her in the eye. "You asked how I knew what was happening, how I knew about the pressures you face. I know because I once sat where you are now. It was my parents who were murdered, me who survived. It was me in the Prophecy, me who was tricked into going to the Ministry, and me who tried to punish Bellatrix. You told me earlier that I could never understand what Sirius meant to you. You’re wrong. I do understand, Katie, because my Godfather was once killed in exactly the same fashion. I’ve sat in your chair and felt the things you’re feeling..."

"Can you offer us any proof," asked Riddle, surveying Harry cautiously. Harry had almost forgotten he was there. "...Anything aside from your word and circumstantial evidence? Your DNA is interesting, but not conclusive."

Harry thought for a moment. He could take them to the Node, but he did not trust Riddle with that kind of knowledge. He was about to say no, when an idea occurred to him.

"My wand," said Harry. He pulled his secondary wand out of his pocket and offered it to the Headmaster. "This is the one you returned to me after the other me died."

Riddle took it and examined it before nodding.

Harry then removed his primary wand, his own, from the holster and handed it to Riddle. "This is the one I brought with me to this world. You can get Ollivander to check them over. He will verify that they are brother wands with yours, even though Fawkes only contributed two feathers. Not only that, he will also tell you that they are not only twin wands, they are literally the same wand."

Riddle glanced from one to the other and then laid them down on the desk side by side. Harry assumed he would examine them thoroughly later.

"So all this?" said Katie, gesturing around her. "You've actually lived through it once before?"

Harry nodded. Katie stared at him for a second, appraising him before she looked down at the palms of her own hands.

"I will end up like you, won’t I?" asked Katie, her eyes full of horror. Her tone said it all ? she did not consider that to be a good thing, rather something to be feared.

Harry tried to place himself in her shoes once more. He would have loved to have been stronger and more powerful when he had sat where she did. Did she not see that this was necessary? Clearly she didn’t, so Harry chose to tell her what she wanted to hear.

"I doubt it," said Harry, shaking his head. "You see, something happened to me. When I left my home, I accidentally jumped to another world, but not this one. I believe that instead of stepping through a doorway to another world, I was swapped with the Harry from that world. It is his body you see before you."

"Not our Harry's?"

"No, because when coming to this world, I stepped through a doorway and hence kept the third Harry's body. There would be two Harry's here, were it not for the fact that he is already...you know." He paused for a moment, trying to think of a way around referring to three different people as 'Harry'. "This is all rather complicated, isn't it?" he said with a shrug. "Anyhow, my point is that when I swapped bodies with the third Harry, I also inherited some...skills of his, muscle memory perhaps, as well as some lingering memories and instincts. The Harry I swapped with is what you described earlier. He's the killer, the monster, the Dark Lord's second in command."

"So, effectively," reasoned Katie. "You’re saying that you are an alien who doesn't belong here, who was just pretending to be our friend, I'm assuming, while you worked out how to get home. And to make it worse, you have all the instincts and abilities of a fully-trained Death Eater, and are in fact a killer?"

"Well not exac..." protested Harry, but she cut him off.

"Yes or no?" pressed Katie more firmly.

Harry couldn't blame her for her anger and mistrust, but it was not as black and white as she thought. He suddenly realised that he knew of a Death Eater who had killed people, who was once a monster but had claimed to be on the Light side. One of the reasons Harry did not trust Severus Snape was the simple fact that he used to be a Death Eater. On reflection, Katie was entirely justified in her response.

"Yes," said Harry sadly. "On some level you are right."

"You either are, or you aren't," said Katie stubbornly.

"Let me explain," snapped Harry a little more aggressively than he meant to. As Katie recoiled, Harry instantly dropped his anger and took a deep, calming breath. "I was once like you once, just a normal student. Then one day I woke up to find myself in the body of a monster. Everyone I had ever known or loved now hated and feared me. I could do all these new things but people hated me because of it... because of what I had apparently done in that world. But I never remembered doing any of it. Even so, from the moment I arrived there I set about trying to right the wrongs I had never done. With the help of the Order of the Phoenix we managed to defeat the Dark Lord on that world. When you phrase it as you did, yes... I am a killer, a monster, and I have done a lot of things I am not proud of, things I regret. Everyone who died in order to defeat that Dark Lord still haunts my dreams. However, I am on your side and I can help. Of the three people in this room, how many have actually defeated a Dark Lord?"

Katie stared at him levelly as he spoke. The final sentence had been a little childish, but it had nailed the point home.

"So, you left that world and came here," Katie pressed after a minute.

She evidentially had chosen not to continue arguing that point, but whether she believed in his sincerity was another issue. Either way, she was continuing with the story, discerning more from what Harry had said then he would have in her position. Harry could only nod as she continued.

"And you said it was by accident. You were trying to get home?"

This was another awkward point that would not really gain her trust. He knew that if he answered truthfully, she would take it to mean he was trying to get out of here and leave them, as if he was trying to run away. This was yet another catch-22. When he answered, he chose his words carefully.

"I believe the evil me, the one from this third world, is in my home world," said Harry. "We have no defences against him, and if he joins the Dark Lord there... Without me to balance the scales I fear my world will fall."

"So you have spent the entire time you were here trying to get home?" repeated Katie, her tone thoughtful but not aggressive. She looked reflective, as if she was trying to piece it all together. "Why did you even come back to school then? You could have gone anywhere."

"Hogwarts was a good place to stay in the meantime," shrugged Harry. "Access to magic in order to research how to get home. Besides, like I said before, I didn’t know something had gone wrong until I showed up here and frankly I didn’t have anywhere else to go."

"And have you found a way to get home yet?" asked Riddle, the curiosity etched into his face.

"I'm nearer than I was," replied Harry avoiding the question. He had no desire to tell Riddle any more than he had to, and it was time to put a shot across his bows. "And considering Lord Voldemort, you will understand if I don't share that information with you?"

"Who is this Lord Voldemort?" interrupted Katie. She had clearly picked up on the tension between Harry and Riddle and looked to each of them for an answer. Then she shook her head and fixed her eyes on Harry. "No, hang on, we’ll get to him, but first I have another question. I want to know, if you’re so eager to get home, then why have you been following me? Why did you join the RA? Why did you come to help tonight?"

"Would you rather I hadn't?" asked Harry, trying to keep the frustration from his voice. He suddenly felt like he was in a witch hunt, as if his inquisitor was trying to burn him.

"If I was trying to get home," said Katie, her tone slightly condescending. "I wouldn't let clubs like the RA come between me and my objective. I wouldn't march headlong into duels with the Dark Lord or situations that are liable to get me killed. I wouldn't take risks."

"What's your point?" asked Harry defensively.

"You said it yourself," she replied. "You’re main priority is to get home so you can save your own world. What made you do it? Are you addicted to risk-taking, to fighting... to playing the hero?"

"Of course not!" snapped Harry, although her question made him uncomfortable for some reason.

"So why were you sticking your nose in?" persisted Katie, her tone firmer, more argumentative than before. "You knew what was going to happen, but you didn't give us that information so you weren't there to help. Why go through the charade?"

"I helped you escape Umbridge," argued Harry hotly.

"Yes, but you could have told us weeks in advance," replied Katie. "You could have warned us about tonight, you could have taught us more advanced spells in the RA, but instead you pretended you couldn't do spells and didn't know things. You clearly weren't there to help, so what was the point of it all, Harry?"

"I was there for you," snapped Harry before he could stop himself. His response seemed to stop Katie in her tracks as well as him. The impact of what Harry had said hit him a second after it had left his mouth. His eyes were wide in horror as he realised that he had said it aloud. Katie had goaded him and he had slipped up again. He had never meant to say that, certainly not to her face. Harry sighed, resting his head in his hands and massaging his forehead. He sat down on the edge of Riddle's desk and then, after rubbing the weariness from his face, looked up at Katie. He tried to maintain eye contact, but her uncompromising stare forced him to look away. As Harry began to explain, he found himself staring at his hands hanging limply in his lap.

"I see in you a better version of myself," confessed Harry, experiencing a mixed sensation of wanting to tell her everything and wanting the world to open up and swallow him. As he continued he began to fidget, rubbing his fingertips together. "I've made so many mistakes. I once tried to teach my own version of the RA and I was curious about yours. You were so much better than I was," he added with a small, private smile.

He tried looking up again and this time he forced himself to look at her. She was staring forward, lost in thought, and somehow that made it easier to continue, his voice growing stronger and more confident with each word. "But most of all, I have spent a lifetime being gawped at by people who know the legend, who see the scar and nothing else. They know me for what my parents did, or rather died doing. It sounds wonderful, but living it means being completely alone. When I was in your shoes I was so lonely, so scared, and now I see you in that position and it's heart-breaking. I wasn't trying to avert the future, as you needed to learn, but while I was here I was trying to make you feel less alone. I wasn't trying to teach or protect the weapon, I was trying to help the person beneath, the real you."

Harry paused and looked at Riddle who was watching him carefully, and then at Katie who was looking slightly guilty, her eyes glistening slightly with unshed tears.

There was an awkward pause in which Harry stood and walked over to the window. He stared silently out over the forest beneath them, wondering if he had done the right thing after all. Katie was right... he shouldn’t have gotten involved.

"I guess I failed," he muttered, sighing deeply and looking at his feet. "I should have left well enough alone and minded my own business."

"I'm sorry, Harry," said Katie gently after a few moments.

Harry turned back to face her, surprised.

"What for?" asked Harry. "You have nothing to be sorry for."

"I just assumed you were either spying on us, playing God with us or..." she trailed off.

"Or what?" asked Harry.

"It's nothing..." she said turned away and looking awkward.

"What?" It was Harry's turn to persist.

"I thought you might have been stalking me," confessed Katie, her face reddening as she studied the floor.

"Oh," said Harry, blushing crimson. "No...definitely not....well, that's not to say that I wouldn't...I mean I wouldn't, but I..." he trailed off before he dug himself a deeper hole. "I definitely wasn't stalking you," he said firmly.

Katie sat back down, smiling slightly and turned back to face him. "So who is this Volder-whats-it then," she asked, clearly keen to change the subject.

Harry shot a quick look at Riddle, before he answered. The Headmaster looked like his mother had just died. There was a great sadness in his appearance, and he looked utterly defeated. It would have been almost pitiful, were it not the man who had murdered his parents. All pride was gone from his posture. He had slumped forward with his forearms stretched out on the desk and his head bowed. He gave Harry a small nod. Harry had been looking forward to this for ages, but judging by Katie’s reaction the last time he had tried to burn Riddle, he felt it best to tread softly and stick to the facts.

"In my world," began Harry, his eyes never leaving Riddle. "Grindelwald was defeated in 1945 by Albus Dumbledore who remains Headmaster to this day." Harry picked his wand up from on Riddle's desk and began to trace letters in the air, just as a younger version of the Headmaster had done in another life.

"Unfortunately," continued Harry as he wrote, "another rose in his place, a man calling himself Lord Voldemort."

He finished writing 'I am Lord Voldemort' in mid air.

As Harry raised his wand ready to shuffle the letters, a hand clamped over his wand. Harry instantly tensed, and turned to face Riddle, who had risen from his seat. The man stood inches from Harry, and towered over him, but this was not the intimidating Lord Voldemort; the man before him looked crestfallen. To Harry's surprise, there was guilt etched into his face, and a great sadness in his eyes. Harry's almost felt a glimmer of pity for him. But as he remembered the glowing red eyes of his nemesis, his pity dissolved.

Riddle looked into Harry’s eyes for a second and then sighed. He stared up at the letters glowing in mid-air.

"No matter how far you run," he said in a whisper. "The past will always find you."

The Headmaster bowed his head, and then with a small smile at Harry, he swept his hand over the letters, which quickly began to rearrange themselves. Harry’s eyes never left Riddle’s as the letters shuffled to match the sign at the front of the desk: Tom Marvolo Riddle.

The only sound in the room was Katie’s shocked gasp as she read the name. She stared up at the Headmaster, her face aghast. Riddle stood motionless, his eyes now locked on the portrait on the wall, an almost pleading look on his face. There was a short pause before he turned around, having summoned the will to face them. In silence he sat back down behind his desk, brushed his long, dark hair away from his eyes and leaned back.

"Despite what you see before you," began Riddle, his voice slow and his tone sombre, "I was once no better than Grindelwald himself. I was once consumed by the same delusion, only worse. Harry once asked me what my greatest fear was: the answer used to be death. I blamed my mother for dying, a shameful human weakness. I knew I was descended from Salazar Slytherin..."

"The Heir of Slytherin!" gasped Katie, staring horrified at the Headmaster.

Riddle made no move to deny it. His head sank into a small affirmative nod. "It was not I who opened the Chamber of Secrets, Kathryn, but I am of that bloodline. And that, I felt long ago, meant that I had a right to do as I pleased. I believed I was special and better than Muggles from my days in the Orphanage, and having fallen in with the wrong crowd here at school, amongst them the first generation of British Death Eaters, my thinking became very dark. I planned to leave all Muggle routes behind, shed my Muggle father's name, and most importantly to conquer death."

"It sounds like you were becoming a Dark Lord," said Katie, nervously.

"He was," said Harry. "Trust me, I know. Your Headmaster did grow into a Dark Lord. Once he left Hogwarts he disappeared and travelled the world. Years later, people started disappearing and rumours circulated amongst the underworld ? a new Dark Lord was rising. When Lord Voldemort appeared again, few recognised him as the former Hogwarts Head Boy, Tom Riddle, and those who did were quickly killed. His power grew and grew. He was unstoppable, until he heard a Prophecy. He came after the boy who could potentially bring about his downfall. However, his curse rebounded, stripping him of his power and his body. Does this sound familiar, Katie?"

Katie nodded, staring at Harry and Riddle in concern.

"But what confuses me," continued Harry, "what I cannot understand, is how the man I see before me, the wizard who used the name Lord Voldemort even as a teenager, who I feel certain killed several people in cold blood including his own father, and certainly once wanted to rid Hogwarts of Muggleborns... how can he now sit here as Headmaster, clearly not a Dark Lord? If it were not for the fact that I have seen his Dark side I might have even thought it possible that he were a good man. He seems to have no prejudice against Muggleborns or any Slytherin-like leanings, so the big question becomes what changed? What was it that finally defeated Lord Voldemort?"

Riddle did not answer for a few seconds. He stared blankly into space before turning and staring at the portrait of his predecessor on the wall.

"It's a long story," replied Riddle, his voice very small. "One best left for another night."

"Oh no," interrupted Harry. "No, no, no! You are not getting away with that. What changed you?"

Riddle turned back to Harry, staring him in the eye for a second before looking away again. He turned back to face the portrait, and to Harry's immense surprise, a single glistening tear ran down Tom Riddle's face.

"One man," said Riddle, not taking his eyes off the portrait, a fond little smile on his face. "Albus Dumbledore."

Harry paused at the name. He knew he was dead, and he also knew that even if he had lived, Riddle would become Voldemort, so what had stopped him? Riddle rose gradually to his feet and walked slowly across to the portrait. He stood before it and gingerly reached out and ran his fingers over the canvas from which Albus Dumbledore smiled back at him.

"It has been over fifty years since I have heard that name Voldemort," replied Riddle. "I had hoped that it would never be uttered again. I was hoping that the world would forget that particular chapter of the past."

"Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it," replied Katie philosophically, her voice definitely cool. Was Harry mistaken or was she siding with him? He felt a sense of relief, mixed with triumph at that revelation.

"True," answered Riddle. He stepped to the side so the two students would see the portrait.

"I remember when he came to the orphanage," said Riddle, smiling sadly. "To rescue me, as I thought at the time. I had a box full of stolen trophies from my spiteful little acts of vengeance against other children. He told me that stealing was punished heavily at Hogwarts and that I should never let him catch me, to which my response was, 'I won't', after which I added 'let you catch me' in my head. Oh, I hated him at the time. He always kept an eye on me... spying, watching, waiting for me to put a toe out of line. If I had been a little wiser I would have realised that he was always there for me, and that he was trying to help me. Had I been able to do as I pleased...well....Harry knows what would have happened."

"So, just by being there he stopped you becoming this Voldemort?" asked Katie.

"Sadly not," replied Riddle with a sigh. "You are about to hear the very darkest chapter of my past... You see, Albus failed. In my seventh year I did something truly unforgivable. Harry, do you know what a Horcrux is?"

Harry nodded, but for Katie's benefit he explained Tom’s question. "It's an object in which a Dark Wizard encases part of his or her soul. That way when they die, if the object is still intact, they survive ? less than the merest ghost ? but alive nonetheless."

Katie looked at Harry astonished. He could almost see the cogs turning as she remembered the events after the Third Task and the potion that brought Grindelwald back.

"I've heard that before," she said, staring at Harry. "In the graveyard. 'Lesser than the merest spirit, but still I was alive'. That's what Grindelwald has done. Does he have one of these Horcruxes? Is that why he didn't die?"

Riddle nodded. "It is the theory to which I have been working," he admitted. "You see, a Horcrux is made by the act of murder, by harnessing the energy released from draining the life out of a person. It is channelled into the caster and the object. It tears the soul in half and deposits half in the object."

"Why are you telling us this?" asked Katie, not following.

Harry on the other hand did. "Because he made one," he told her quietly.

Riddle bowed his head and Katie gasped.

"No!" she blurted out, wearing the face that looked like it was waiting for him to shout April Fool. Riddle gave her a small smile, as if he appreciated her show of support, even though he plainly did not deserve it.

"Mister Potter is once again correct," Riddle announced. "Since he has asked about my family, this leads me to believe he knows who the victim was. Am I correct?" he asked Harry in a shrewd voice.

Harry nodded. "I’m fairly certain it was your Muggle father and grandparents."

"It is the moment in my life that I regret the most, when I killed Tom Riddle Senior in order to make myself immortal. A life for a life-eternal. The other two were unfortunate bystanders."

"You didn't," said Katie shaking her head. "You wouldn't."

"I did," confessed Riddle, "though I have wished ever since that I had not. It was my darkest hour... when Tom Riddle disappeared and Lord Voldemort took over. However, upon my return to Hogwarts, the Horcrux safely in my pocket, who should I run into?"

"Dumbledore," said Harry with a hint of pride.

Riddle nodded. "He saved me," said Riddle with a small smile. "It took over a year, but he saved me. He failed to defeat one Dark Lord at Versailles, but he did defeat another."

"What do you mean?" asked Katie

"Lord Voldemort and his Horcrux died that day," answered Riddle. "Ever since then I have been trying to earn his forgiveness. When I die and, should I meet him again, I want to be able to look him in the eye and say that I did whatever I could from that point on to be a force for good in this world."

"You can't buy your way into Heaven," said Harry, shaking his head. "You need to genuinely regret, experience genuine remorse."

"You have no idea how right you are," said Riddle, with a knowing smile.

Harry had no idea what he meant, but Riddle continued before he had a chance to ask.

"But that is the sad story of Lord Voldemort." he concluded with finality.

"No it isn't," interrupted Harry. "What made you change? Dumbledore telling off or giving you a detention wouldn't do it. What made the monster see the error of his ways?"

"That is not something I’m ready to talk about," said Riddle, a little more firmly.

"But..." argued Harry.

Riddle shot him a look that said that this conversation was over and Harry backed down, seeing the futility of arguing. Katie on the other hand was not finished.

"So, let me see if I have this straight," said Katie. "Just to summarise this evening... I have to kill or be killed by the Dark Lord, and the two people most likely to help are a murderer and a traveller from another world, who in a sense used to be another Dark Lord's second in command..."

Harry didn't approve of her choice of words, but she was essentially right. "I understand this is a lot to take in," he began, but she cut him off.

"Really?" she asked, her voice oozing sarcasm. "I find out that I have been lied to from day one. I am not a person, but a weapon that everyone is just trying to protect. The people who I thought were trying to help me are just as bad as the person I am to fight. My life is in your hands, and personally I don't want my life in the hands of murderers, but it seems that is what has happened. After everything I have done for you over the years, Sir, and you never told me any of this? Neither of you know how utterly betrayed I feel."

Harry opened his mouth to speak, but Katie cut him off.

"No, Harry, I don't think you can appreciate how I feel. Just by talking to you tonight I think you speak like a soldier, like a killer. I've seen how detached you are, how hard you find it to act normally. As your little act flipped from cold to cuddly and back I could never tell which was the real you. But it's the cold one, isn't it...the warrior? I think somewhere along the line you've lost your humanity. But both of you are guilty. What really grates on my nerves is that tomorrow you are both going to expect me to pick up the fight where we left off, to soldier on, pretending none of this happened. I’m supposed to forget that you have done everything wrong. You expect me to come around and act all 'hey, you screwed me over, and ruined my life, but that's fine because we're on the same team'. You expect me to carry the standard and to continue to fight for you, when judging by what I have heard tonight neither of you deserve my support."

"Well, I have news for you," she announced. "I've had enough deceit and lies for one night. I'm off to bed. I need time. I don't mean time to come to terms with all the lies and the bullshit that you have been layering up this year, but lest you all forget, Sirius died tonight. But what do you care, Headmaster? He was just a foot soldier. What do you care, Harry... if you even can feel compassion? But me, I'm still human and I still feel. I still hurt. I am going to mourn my Godfather before I raise a finger to help you and your little war. So unlock the door, Professor, because I am going to bed."

"Before you do," said Harry, braving the glare Katie was shooting at them. "I think Riddle needs to see the third prophecy, Katie."

Her jaw dropped as Harry spoke but he stared calmly back, trying to keep all emotion and feelings hidden.

"How could you possibly...?" began Katie.

"Neville."

"Wanker," cursed Katie under her breath.

Riddle had looked up at the word ‘prophecy’ and was now staring at Katie intently. He was apparently unaware of the existence of a third prophecy.

"Can we..." asked Riddle hesitantly, gesturing to the Pensieve.

Katie nodded reluctantly and returned to her seat. Riddle raised his wand to her temple.

"Concentrate," he said, before pulling the familiar thread form her temple and dropping it into the bowl. As he stirred, Professor Trelawney once again rose from the Pensieve.

"He shall come to you on swift wings, a stranger from an unholy land,"she rasped, her voice croaky, deep and vacant, "and disaster shall follow in his wake. My last shall be re-written, your future re-cast. But beware your guardians; each will tempt you into their own darkness...choose wisely, Chosen One....your fate and the Knight’s are now entwined. He is not as strong as he appears. His life now hangs in the balance but it is you who must choose for him, and with your choice, he may forever be lost to this world...choose wisely, Chosen One, choose wisely."

"Firstly," said Harry after a pause. "We can discount the old prophecy, for this says that it is re-written. And secondly, I believe that I am the stranger from the unholy land."

"Why is that?" asked Katie curiously despite her attempts to remain neutral.

"In the first world I visited," he explained, "my parents were alive, but Voldemort was almost in charge. He had never fallen, and his followers were everywhere ? even the other me was one of them. Everyone in that world wanted me dead... Voldemort because I had left him and everyone else because I had once served him. I was utterly alone and it seemed most of the time that I had no one to help me. I was a visitor to a strange, violent, and Godless world. I was a Stranger in an Unholy Land."

Harry paused and looked around. Katie's icy stare had melted slightly and she almost looked sympathetic.

"It was a nightmare of a world, ravaged by war," he continued, "But it gave me a chance to finally meet my parents, to live like a normal family, to meet a sister I never knew I had. For just a few months, I felt like I was home."

"But they weren't your real family," argued Katie.

"The world is what you make of it," said Harry, looking at her levelly. "I could argue that youaren't real and aren’t worth my time and help, or I could decide that you are a good person in very harsh circumstances who might need help. I seem to have chosen the latter. In the other world, I tried to avoid getting involved, but I can't stand by while others suffer..." he trailed off.

"And now you find history repeating itself here," finished Riddle. "Now you find yourself in what you thought was the Promised Land, but still a complete stranger, and once again you find yourself getting more and more drawn in."

"I already am," said Harry. "In that other world the Newspapers had dubbed the other me the 'Dark Knight', and so I fought as the White Knight to defeat the Dark Lord. I believe that I am also the Knight in the second half of that Prophecy. Apparently, Katie here must choose if I live or die."

"Don't tempt me," muttered Katie. She glanced at him for a moment, her brow furrowed in thought. "Well, disaster has followed in your wake - Sirius is...." But she couldn't finish the sentence and trailed off, staring at her feet again. Instead she moved on. "An old prophecy was re-written, a future recast. You said it yourself, Harry. With you here, things are different now. I assume you flew to the Ministry on Thestrals, hence the swift wings?"

Harry hesitated. He opened his mouth to answer, but quickly shut it again. How exactly does a man explain to a woman that he has repeatedly flown into her bedroom at night to watch over her, without sounding like a pervert? She would accuse him of watching her get dressed, of spying on her. She would be livid that he had deceived her, and in her current state that was not a good thing. Also, it meant that he could continue to keep an eye on her if he kept that bit a secret.

"Yes," he replied at length.

"So your fate is in my hands," said Katie more as a statement than a question. She fixed Harry with an appraising stare.

Harry had no idea what was going through her head. For a moment he considered that perhaps she was considering blackmailing him, but he doubted she was cruel enough for that, even in her current state.

Eventually she shrugged. "Well that's sorted," she said a little too casually. "Can I go to bed now?"

Riddle nodded and Harry followed suit as Katie turned to leave. As the door shut behind her, Harry turned to Riddle. That could have gone worse he realised, but what did Riddle make of it?

"She’ll be fine," said Riddle, clearly reading Harry's expression. "She just needs time."

"The one thing we don't have," muttered Harry, trying to rub the weariness from his face.

Riddle nodded in agreement.

"But we can ask no more of her yet," replied Riddle. "We have both wronged her significantly. I remain confident she will come around in the end."

Harry agreed but it still sounded to him as if the Headmaster was taking Katie for granted. The trouble was that Harry was guilty of the same sin. There was nothing else he could do.

"So what happens now?" asked Harry, the tiredness suddenly catching up with him. "Am I to be locked up and examined?"

Riddle looked up at him in amusement. "I think we can keep a secret," he announced. "You are free to go."

"As if you could stop me," muttered Harry.

"And you will need this," said Riddle, offering Harry his two wands back.

He didn't question if the Headmaster was going to get it checked, but took them and pocketed them without a word. He turned to leave, but before he got to the door Riddle spoke again.

"Harry," he called. "Whatever has happened between various versions of ourselves, I hope we can put this aside. For Kathryn's sake."

Harry turned back to face him. "Maybe," he replied. "But sooner or later I am going to need to know everything about Voldemort. You can't remain silent forever."

With that he slipped out the door, closing it with a bang.

He caught up with Katie a hundred metres beyond the door.

"I'll walk you up to the Tower," said Harry, as he drew level. She didn't respond.

They descended the stairs and began the trek up to the seventh floor. He walked in silence next to the Girl-Who-Lived, not daring to speak, not knowing what to say. The awkward silence was deafening. As they walked, their footsteps were the only sounds in the deserted corridor. Harry longed to break the silence, but what do you say to someone like Katie after what she had been through? Back when it was him, he had just wanted to be alone. Harry stole a quick glance across at her.

Her expression was vacant as they walked along the darkened corridor, her jaw set and her eyes fixed ahead. As her face fell in and out of shadow, Harry thought he saw a tear glisten on the silhouette of her face. He checked his watch: it was ten to nine. The corridors would be deserted and most all the students in their dormitories as curfew started in ten minutes. Not that it mattered... no one in their right mind would challenge Harry, looking and feeling like he did.

As they reached the stairs, Harry couldn't take it any longer.

"Hermione and the others will be fine," he said as they began to climb. "A few days in the hospital and they'll be right as rain." It was about the only good news there was, and it had taken Harry the entire journey just to think of it. He was tired and she was ratty.

"Good," said Katie, her voice scarcely above a whisper. Her tone was almost bored, and the message was clear: she did not want to talk.

"Look," said Harry, trying to sound apologetic. "I don't mean to be a know-it-all, but I do know what you are feeling."

"Well if you are so good, you do it all over again. You fight Grindelwald and save me the hassle," replied Katie coldly.

"Look, I know Sirius was dear to you," replied Harry calmly, knowing that anger wouldn't help either of them. He daren't refer to Sirius as his Godfather yet, as she would think he was trying to steal him from her. "My Godfather was killed in front of me as well, remember."

"Don't say it like that," said Katie bluntly.

"Okay," Harry replied, his tone softer. "Just look at it like this. What would he want you to do? He came to visit you during the Triwizard Tournament, disguised as a dog. He lived off rats, and risked his life to be with you, to make you happy. He wouldn't want you to blame yourself. He would have given his life to save you, and this is what he did."

"But he's gone." Her voice cracked on the final word, tears flowing down her cheeks.

"He will only be gone when you stop loving him," said Harry. "He saved you from beyond the grave tonight. If he's up there watching over you, he would be glad to know that his death made you stronger, that it was not in vain. If you don't move on, don't face your destiny, then his death will have been in vain."

"There you go sounding like a soldier again," scoffed Katie. "Death in battle is honourable, blah blah blah... good death, blah blah. That is no consolation to me at the moment."

"You truly believe that?" asked Harry. "You truly don't care that he died doing what he wanted, died trying to protect you?"

"Oh, I don't know!" conceded Katie irritably, throwing her arms in the air. "It's just that I haven't even got back to the Common Room and already people are telling me it's the way it was meant to be, and to move on and grow up. It's just so hard. I feel so angry and yet so..."

"Lost?" offered Harry.

Katie nodded.

"Believe me, I know," said Harry. "People said similar things to me, and I just wanted them to shut up. Given time, I have come to realise that they were right. I won't let his death have been in vain. I will make him proud."

"I just need time," said Katie tiredly.

"Of course," replied Harry, remembering the pain. But then again she was not Harry. She was not even a man. Women reacted very differently to emotional situations. Harry knew this from Hermione's antics at the Yule Ball, and generally the sixth year girls. Harry had no clue how she would deal with this, if she even would. He just hoped she wouldn't spend the next few weeks crying ? there was work to be done. Still, this didn't mean he couldn’t be sensitive.

"Take all the time you need. If you ever need me, my door is always open."

"Okay," said Katie as they arrived at the Fat Lady.

Harry got the impression she was just saying that to shut him up and that if she felt lonely, he was the last person she would confide in. But now was not the time to press her.

"What in heaven's name happened to you?" gawped the Fat Lady as she saw Harry.

"I got into a fight with a mad German with a knife," replied Harry impatiently.

The Fat Lady looked down at him with a scornful expression painted over her face. "I was only asking," she shot back defensively. "There's no need to be rude."

Harry grimaced and gave the password. The Fat Lady looked even more mutinous that she had to step aside for him, and reluctantly opened to grant them access. The Gryffindor Common Room was a flurry of activity as Harry and Katie entered. Rumours had to have been flying wild, largely thanks to Colin Creevey who had seen the inquisitorial Squad capture Katie and the others. None of the others had returned yet. From the conversation it seemed that McGonagall had ordered everyone back to their common rooms, and the missing students taken by Umbridge were on everyone's lips. It was then that they spotted Harry and Katie.

Harry was dressed in Riddle's long black coat with white trousers and boots. He had a cut over his left eye and blood smeared over his jaw and chin. Katie didn't look as bad, but had a nasty scrape on her cheek. Her clothes were torn and both of them looked like they had been dragged through a bush backwards.

"What the f....?" said someone in the room.

The room froze and silence fell as Harry and Katie crossed the threshold into the room. If there was anyone who could answer the endless questions flying about all evening it was the pair in the doorway. But now that they were here, no one dared to approach.

They stood in a sea of stares and open mouths. Harry turned to Katie and, as expected, found her jaw firmly set in place, refusing to let the pain show. However it was clear to Harry how hard she found this.

"Come on," he said softly, resting a hand lightly on her shoulders. They moved forward and the crowd parted to allow them through, but the stares didn't stop. Harry guided Katie through the crowd towards the stairs where she began to climb slowly, her head hung low and her movements shaky. He wished he could follow but the alarms wouldn't let him. Instead, he turned back to face the room.

Every person in the room was staring at him. He had noticed that two of the seventh year girls had risen from their chairs and Harry had a fair idea what they were planning to do.

"I really wouldn't," Harry said to them. His voice was full of authority and carried to every corner of the room. "In her current state, if you press her for information all the make-up in the world won't hide what she'll do to you."

A look of confusion crossed over their faces. Harry felt a glimmer of anger ? it should have been pity not confusion.

"And that goes for the rest of you as well," he continued, his voice rising to make sure he was heard. "Leave her alone. If you want information, Riddle is back and he will tell you in the morning. For now, just celebrate the fact that Umbridge is gone. The rest can wait."

As expected, at the mention of Riddle's name a muttering rose up as the news that Umbridge was gone and Riddle was back sunk in. Harry glanced around the room again before speaking.

"Prefects... pull your thumbs out and do your God-damned jobs ? get everyone to bed. NOW!"

With one final glance around the room, Harry disappeared up the boy's stairs with a swish of his cloak as the Prefects jumped to attention and complied with his orders.

When he got to his room he took off Riddle's coat and threw it across the bed. Suddenly he felt really cold and tried, and part of him wanted to just crash out right now. But he knew his jobs were not yet finished. He kicked off his boots and socks, which landed in a messy heap in the corner. Merlin, he felt like hell.

Just then the door opened and Seamus and Dean slipped in. Harry had turned in an instant, aiming his primary wand at the pair of them. They nervously crossed to the next bed and sat down, staring expectantly at him as he relaxed and stowed it away.

"Well?" asked Seamus when he couldn't contain it any longer.

Harry was in no mood for conversation. He got shakily to his feet and approached the boys.

"Seamus," he said flatly. "Do you have any alcohol? Any vodka?"

"Sure," he asked. "Why?"

"I need some," replied Harry.

Seamus hesitated for a second before reaching under his bed. He emerged a second later with half a bottle of clear liquid. Harry walked awkwardly over and took the bottle from his hands.

"Medicinal purposes," he muttered.

Wearing just his trousers, he walked bare-foot to the bathroom and locked the door.

Safely inside, he stared at his reflection in the mirror, inspecting the damage. Riddle had healed the cut on his neck without even leaving a scar, but that was only one of his wounds. He had a busted eyebrow from which blood was seeping down the right side of his face, caking over the warmth of his skin. He had several large, ugly purple bruises on his stomach and chest. Were it not for his armour, they would have been worse ? a fact for which he was most grateful. Unfortunately, there were injuries his armour had not absorbed. There was a cut just above his right hip on the side of his torso where the armour afforded him no protection. He had another on his thigh hidden beneath a mess of bloodied white cloth. Harry attributed both these to flying tiles as Grindelwald had tried to cut him to shreds. There were various other scrapes and cuts, but those little scratches paled into insignificance next to the other two.

Harry grabbed a flannel off the side and dipped it into the warm water in the sink. Gingerly he swabbed away the dried blood from around the wound on his hip. The white flannel came away crimson, and the water in the sink began to follow suit. Harry tried to disturb the laceration as little as possible as he continued to clear away the dried blood, but as soon as he cleared some away, it was quickly replaced by fresh crimson. Cursing, he noticed that there was a fragment of a tile embedded in his hip. Twisting so he could see in the mirror, he could make out a jagged piece of white pushing out from inside the cut, and it was clearly not his bone. He knew it had to come out. Gritting his teeth, he aimed his wand at the piece of tile and took a deep breath, readying himself for the pain.

"Accio tile!"

Harry gritted his teeth and doubled up in pain, determined not to cry out as the debris was torn from his body. He then braced himself for more pain and poured a little of the vodka over the wound to sterilise it. Hissing in pain as the alcohol stung at the exposed flesh, Harry quickly covered it with a fresh flannel and kept pressure on it, somehow knowing it would stop the bleeding eventually. Holding it firmly in place with his left hand, he used his right to clean up the rest of his body, including the bust eyebrow. He wiped away the sweat and the blood, leaving himself feeling much cleaner, but at the same time much weaker.

As he had cleaned his thigh, having used his wand to remove the fabric around it, Harry applied a touch more vodka over the cut, and rested another flannel over it before using his wand to create bonds to hold it in place. It was less severe than the one on his hip and had almost stopped bleeding to begin with. Satisfied that the rest of him was patched up, Harry turned his attention back to his hip. Gingerly removing the flannel to have a look, he was relieved to see that the blood was clotting again. He gently cleaned away some of the dried blood that was running down his hip and placed a fresh flannel over the top, and then bound it to his torso as he had done to his thigh. That would be good enough for tonight, he reasoned.

That done he returned to his room where Dean and Seamus were still waiting for him. Harry handed the bottle back to Seamus and limped to his bed. The lactic acid in his limbs was making his entire body really stiff in addition his wounds. He waddled more than walked as his legs began to cramp and seize up.

"Well?" asked Seamus, as Harry crossed to his bed.

Harry glanced at him, but remained silent. There was no point in telling him anything at this point. He could wait until the morning like everyone else. Harry reached under his bed and produced a box of chocolate frogs. He ate three to increase his blood sugar level and took a drink of water from the jug by his bed.

"What happened?" reiterated Seamus, clearly frustrated that Harry wasn't responding.

"Read tomorrow's Prophet," said Harry, lying down on his bed, his hip uppermost to protect it and so blood flowed away from it. "I'm sure they will cover the long and short of it."

With that Harry drew the curtains with a flick of his hand. Secure, he removed the bloodied remains of his trousers, leaving just his boxers on, rolled onto his back, and lay staring up at the ceiling waiting for Dean and Seamus to go to bed.

It was another few minutes before he heard them both leave, to go back down and share what little they had learned. With them gone, he had one more task to complete.

~~~~ + ~~~~

Katie lay back on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. Her unfocussed eyes saw not the red curtains, but the image of Sirius falling backwards through the arch. The scene was imprinted on her mind, and every time she closed her eyes she was forced to relive it.

If only I hadn't been so stupid, she told herself. ...If only.

Guilt was building up inside her like a dam, but she refused to burst. She had cried enough this evening. As she listened to the wind howling around the tower, the words of the old prophecy came back to her. One must die at the hands of the other... The old Prophecy. Perhaps it was now void. But even if it was, Grindelwald would not stop coming after her. It wasn't over. The new prophecy wasn't exactly detailed when it came to the Dark Lord, and Katie was fairly sure that one day it would be her that had to face Grindelwald.

Kill or be killed, she repeated in her mind. Murdered or murderer. Did she honestly think she could do it? Even if she somehow managed to beat him, could she look into another man's eyes and end his life? There were enough killers out there, but she was not one of them. Riddle, Potter... they had both killed, but she was better than them. Anyone could kill ? a toddler with his dad's gun could even kill someone. But to give life... that was real power. Riddle understood that, for that was what he was doing. As Headmaster, he was trying to ensure quality of life for his students, but Harry was a different kettle of fish.

Harry saw fighting as the only alternative. His heart was in the right place and, having spoken freely with him at last, Katie believed he was on the right side and thought he was doing the right thing, but he was so flawed. He had lived by the sword and believed the sword was the only solutions there was to life’s problems. Somewhere along the line, he had lost what it meant to be human. Katie did not so much fear him, as pity him. He had spoken of a family, of finally meeting his parents, and it was a goal that Katie truly could understand. But Harry had walked away from that. He seemed to flip mid-conversation between compassionate and cold. Katie doubted he even realised that he had done it, but it was clear to see. The boy was insane. When she had heard who Harry really was, that he too carried the scar, her first thought was that he could take over the fight for her. But as she thought about it, would she really trust the future to him, an insane killer? Not likely. Somehow, Katie felt that it was her job to finish Grindelwald off. He had killed her parents, and she would be there at his end.

In her mind, Katie played the whole conversation over again. The evening had brought a lot of information to light, and none of it was good. She was supposed to either kill or be killed. Riddle had known this for years but not told her. Of all the opportunities he’d had over the years, he had never mentioned it to her. If she had known...she never would have gone there tonight. If she had known back in September, then none of this would have happened. Riddle could have shown her the Prophecy, and this whole year would not have been wasted.

As it was she was now more alone than ever. Now she had no one to turn to, for both Riddle and Potter were there for the war. Despite Harry's claims, he too looked at her as if she were an object, and spoke only of the fall of the Dark Lord. He may have come to the RA just for her, a claim that was rather flattering in itself, but now she had spoken to him in the open... now he was back in soldier mode, it was clear to see that he was thinking about war and not her. He flipped between his two personas so quickly, one minute cold and calculating, the next caring and trying to help. Every time Katie had challenged him, he had retreated into his cold persona, like a mask falling in to place. It was almost as if there was a war raging inside him.

There was a lot more to think about when it came to Harry. He claimed to be from another universe, but that was impossible, surely? A completely different Harry? Riddle had believed him, and he certainly seemed to know things he shouldn't... It was just that it was such a big thing to get her head around. She suddenly felt so small. When she thought about thousands of parallel universes side by side, she suddenly felt insignificant. And what of the person, himself? He didn't exactly seem sympathetic to the real Harry. He was walking around in dead man's shoes and didn't seem to care. Katie got the distinct impression that he hadn't given the real Harry a second thought.

And what of his scar? He was her opposite number, her counterpart on another world. The Boy-Who-Lived. Katie laughed at the idea, as the words just sounded ridiculous. The words seemed so...weird. It did explain how he knew everything. He had been through what she had, and was perhaps the only one who could understand. But the problem was that he didn't understand, not on a human level at least. She didn't want to end up like him ? if he was her future, she would do everything possible to change it. She didn't want to endure what she saw in his eyes, the loneliness and the violence. Admittedly, his ability to fight had saved their lives and ultimately would help them. She knew that he had more chance of killing Grindelwald than she did, but that did not mean she envied his power. There was darkness behind those eyes. He had killed, she was sure of it. Did she trust him? She didn't even know herself?

Thud!

Katie sat bolt upright at the sound of the impact, a chill running down her spine. She grabbed her wand and slid open the curtains just enough to see out. The room was in darkness except for a slip of moonlight coming in through the open window. Suddenly there was a flash of movement as something leapt towards her. She didn't even have time to scream before she suddenly realised what she was seeing. She breathed a sigh of relief. Perched on the dresser was the familiar form of her phoenix. She had yet to name the bird, but now was not the time. The phoenix spread its wings and jumped into the air, flapping its wings as it fluttered across the room. It flapped through the curtains and landed on one of the bed knobs inside. Katie made no objection, grateful for the company. She closed the curtains around them, the phoenix watching her intently the entire time.

"Hello," she said, gently brushing the top of its head with the back of her fingers. The bird twisted its head, nuzzling her fingers as she stroked it. It felt like the first time she had smiled in ages. At least with all the bad stuff that was going on, she had one thing that was pure left.

"At least one person isn't keeping secrets from me," she muttered.

With the phoenix watching over her, it was only a matter of minutes before she was fast asleep.

~~~~ + ~~~~

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